Latest Population Numbers Show Idaho's Urban Places Growing, Small Places Shrinking

Mar 26, 2015

The U.S. Census Bureau Thursday released its population estimates for 2014. Boise was number 20 in the Census’ list of top 20 fastest-growing metro areas. The area that includes Idaho’s capital as well as Nampa and Meridian grew 2.1 percent between July 2013 and July 2014.

North Idaho’s Sandpoint was the ninth-fastest-growing micro area with 2.2 percent growth between 2013 and 2014.

Idaho had six counties with more than 50,000 residents in 2014.

  • Ada County -  426,236
  • Canyon County - 203,143
  • Kootenai County  -  147,326
  • Bonneville County - 108,623
  • Bannock County -  83,347
  • Twin Falls County - 80,914

Between 2010 and 2014, Idaho’s three most-populous counties also had the fastest growth. Ada County, home to Boise, grew by more than 8 percent in those four years. Canyon County, with Nampa, had 7 percent growth and Kootenai, home to Coeur d’Alene, grew by 6 percent. Twin Falls County was forth-fastest with 4 percent growth between 2010 and 2014.

Idaho's most populous county, Ada, has more than twice as many people as runner up Canyon County.
Credit Data, U.S. Census Bureau

Idaho had five counties with fewer than 4,000 people in 2014.

  • Adams County - 3,861
  • Lewis County - 3,838
  • Butte County - 2,622
  • Camas County - 1,039
  • Clark County - 867

Generally speaking, places in Idaho with the most people are growing and places with the fewest people are shrinking. Half of Idaho's 44 counties lost population between 2010 and 2014.

Idaho’s least-populous county is Clark County in eastern Idaho. It also had the largest percent decline in the state, losing 11.5 percent of its population in four years.

Kerri Ellis is the Clark County Clerk and former county economic development specialist. Ellis says people are leaving because it’s growing increasingly difficult to make a living wage in the county.

She says the population decline is hurting businesses, the school district and government. Ellis says the county’s only town, Dubois, has had to take out bonds just to fulfill its legal requirements like waste disposal.

“As people move out, it leaves the burden of the bond on the residents that are still here,” she says. “So pretty soon it could become a pretty costly place to live.”

Ellis says she could envision a time when the town and the county have too few people to continue to exist.

But she says the county is trying to attract businesses in order to reverse the flow of the population stream. Ellis says the county has land it’s dedicated as an industrial park. Its courting businesses with proximity to the interstate highway and rail lines as well as low taxes and cheap land.  

“I think you ought to move here because we have a willing workforce and we’re close to recreation,” she says. “It’s a great place for a business that can offer that to employees who are looking for outdoor recreation. We are close to the Montana border and to Yellowstone Park. And it’s appealing for people who like the rural lifestyle, knowing your neighbors and being friends with everyone and being involved with the community.”

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio